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Encyclopedia > Women in the victorian era

The status of Women in the Victorian Era is often seen as an illustration of the striking discrepancy between England's national power and wealth and what many, then and now, consider its appalling social conditions. During the era symbolized by the reign of British monarch Queen Victoria, difficulties escalated for women because of the vision of the "ideal woman" shared by most in the society. The legal rights of married women were similar to those of children; they could not vote or sue or even own property. Also, they were seen as pure and clean. Because of this view, their bodies were seen as temples which should not be adorned with jewellery nor used for physical exertion or pleasurable sex. The role of women was to have children and tend to the house, in contrast to men, according to the concept of Victorian masculinity. They could not hold a job unless it was that of a teacher or a domestic servant, nor were they allowed to have their own checking accounts or savings accounts. In the end, they were to be treated as saints, but saints that had no legal rights. Image File history File links Question_book-3. ... Image File history File links Broom_icon. ... For other uses, see Monarch (disambiguation). ... Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837, and the first Empress of India from 1 May 1876, until her death on 22 January 1901. ... For the Korean music group, see Jewelry (group). ... A male Caucasian toddler child A child (plural: children) is a young human. ... For other uses, see House (disambiguation). ... The concept of Victorian masculinity is a diverse one since it was influenced by numerous aspects and factors such as religion, domesticity and gender roles, Imperialism, economy, sporting competition, manners, and much more. ... For university teachers, see professor. ... Look up Domestic in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

Contents

Women as Generals of Households

'The Household General' is a term coined in 1861 by Isabella Beeton in her manual Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management. Here she explained that the mistress of a household is comparable to the Commander of an Army or the leader of an enterprise. In order to run a respectable household and secure the happiness, comfort and well-being of her family she must perform her duties intelligently and thoroughly. For example, she has to organize, delegate and instruct her servants which is not an easy task as many of them are not reliable. She is expected to organise parties and dinners to bring prestige to her husband, also making it possible for them to meet new people and establish economically important relationships. At the same time she must make sure she devotes enough time to her children and towards improving her own abilities and cultural knowledge. Another duty described by Beeton is that of being the "sick-nurse" who takes care of ill family members. This requires a good temper, compassion for suffering and sympathy with sufferers, neat-handedness, quiet manners, love of order and cleanliness; all qualities a woman worthy of the name should possess in the 19th century. A woman in Victorian times was also obliged to take care of her parents in case of illness, even if this stretched over months and years and often implied a great sacrifice of self-interest on her side. A very special connection existed between women and their brothers. Sisters had to treat their brothers as they would treat their future husbands. They were dependent on their male family members as the brother's affection might secure their future in case their husband treated them badly or they did not get married at all. Also, while it was very easy to lose one's reputation, it was difficult to establish a reputation. For example, if one person in a family did something horrible, the whole family would have to suffer the consequences. Year 1861 (MDCCCLXI) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Sunday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar). ... Mrs Beeton aged about 26 Isabella Mary Mayson (March 12, 1836 - January 1865), universally known as Mrs Beeton, was the author of Mrs Beetons Book of Household Management and is the most famous cookery writer in British history. ... Published in 1861, Mrs Beetons Book of Household Management was a guide to all aspects of running a household in Victorian Britain. ... Servant has a number of meaning: A servant is another word for domestic worker, a person who is hired to provide regular household or other duties, and receives compensation. ... Prestige means good reputation or high esteem. ... Compassion is best described as an understanding of the emotional state of another; not to be confused with empathy. ... For the change in vowel and consonant quality in Celtic languages, see Affection (linguistics). ...


Women's Bodies as Pure

The body of the woman was seen as pure and clean except when she was experiencing menstruation. A woman was not encouraged to wear any kind of cosmetics, or wear clothing that showed her skin, or showed even stockings or any other undergarment. Some believe this was because a woman's body was considered to be the property of her husband. As a result, women were not to advertise their bodies to other men. However, men also were discouraged from wearing any kind of cosmetics or wear clothing that showed their skin or undergarments, so this was a part of the Victorian morals which affected both males and females. There were other similar restrictions like discouragement of using the word "leg" in presence of opposite gender, or obligatory usage of bathing machines. These restrictions also affected both genders. Not to be confused with Mensuration. ... “Make-up” redirects here. ... Victoria Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India Victorian morality is a distillation of the moral views of people living at the time of Queen Victoria (reigned 1837 - 1901) in particular, and to the moral climate of Great Britain throughout the 19th century in... The bathing machine was a device which flourished in the 19th century to allow people to wade in the ocean at beaches without violating Victorian notions of modesty. ...


Women and sex

The Victorian society preffered to avoid talking about sex. Although difficult, sexual activities have been highly regulated in Europe by church and state law. Sexuality, viewed by the doctrines of medieval church, was considered as a gift from God; they followed the teachings of St. Paul and encouraged a life of chastity over a life of sexual desire. St. Paul taught that Christians should try to remain virgins but only should they marry if this could not be done. This allowed both men and women to be sexually active without being sinful by fornicating. Church law also ruled out sexual activities between the same genders and placed sexual limitations on married couples, for example: sexual relations at times of penance and on religious days were forbidden. Sexual relations were solely for the purpose of reproduction; therefore the church opposed sexual relations for the intentions of solely obtaining pleasure. For this, certain positions were outlawed, for example: standing up (it was believed that the semen would flow out) and the placement of women on top (it contradicted the idea that men were dominant and it reversed the role of women). As far as adultery, the courts treated women versus men unjustly. They typically granted more severe consequences to women adulterers than men. The courts argued that women jeopardized becoming pregnant with another man's child which could allow the child to inherit the property of the wrong father; thus their laws set standards for the sexual behavior of women higher than that of men.


Women as educational inequals

The attitude towards women and education was that education of women needn't be of the same extended, classical and commercial character as that of men. Women were supposed to know the things necessary to bring up their children and to keep house. Female education is a catch-all term for a complex of issues and debates surrounding education (primary education, secondary education, tertiary education and health education in particular) for females. ... A male Caucasian toddler child A child (plural: children) is a young human. ...


Subjects such as history, geography and general literature were of importance, whereas Latin and Greek were of little importance. Women who wanted to study such subjects as law, physics, engineering, science or art were satirized and dismissed. This article is about the study of time in human terms. ... For other uses, see Latin (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Law (disambiguation). ... A magnet levitating above a high-temperature superconductor demonstrates the Meissner effect. ... Engineering is the discipline of acquiring and applying knowledge to design, analysis, and/or construction of works for practical purposes. ... A magnet levitating above a high-temperature superconductor demonstrates the Meissner effect. ... This article is about the philosophical concept of Art. ...


People thought it unnecessary for women to attend university. It was even said that studying was against their nature and could make them ill. They were to stay more or less an "ornament of society" and be subordinate to their husbands. Obedience was all that was required of them. For the community in Florida, see University, Florida. ... “Natural” redirects here. ... Look up Obedience in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


Attempts at reform

Reforming Divorce Laws

Great changes in the situation of women took place in the 19th century, especially concerning marriage laws and the legal status of women. The situation that fathers always received custody of their children, leaving the mother completely without any rights, slowly started to change. The Custody of Infants Act in 1839 gave mothers of unblemished character access to their children in the event of separation or divorce, and the Matrimonial Causes Act in 1857 gave women limited access to divorce. But while the husband only had to prove his wife's adultery, a woman had to prove her husband had not only committed adultery but also incest, bigamy, cruelty or desertion. In 1873 the Custody of Infants Act extended access to children to all women in the event of separation or divorce. In 1878, after an amendment to the Matrimonial Causes Act, women could secure a separation on the grounds of cruelty and claim custody of their children. Magistrates even authorized protection orders to wives whose husbands have been convicted of aggravated assault. An important change was caused by an amendment to the Married Women's Property Act in 1884 that made a woman no longer a 'chattel' but an independent and separate person. Through the Guardianship of Infants Act in 1886 women could be made the sole guardian of their children if their husband died. Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... Marriage is an interpersonal relationship with governmental, social, or religious recognition, usually intimate and sexual, and often created as a contract, or through civil process. ... Custody can refer to: Child custody Police custody (Arrest) Custody account, see either Custodian bank or Clearing house (finance) Banking) Category: ... 1839 (MDCCCXXXIX) was a common year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar). ... Separation may refer to a several different subjects: In chemistry, separation refers to the separation process. ... Divorce or dissolution of marriage is the ending of a marriage before the death of either spouse. ... 1857 was a common year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar). ... This article is about the act of adultery. ... Incest is defined as sexual intercourse between closely related persons. ... Polygamy, literally many marriages in ancient Greek, is a marital practice in which a person has more than one spouse simultaneously (as opposed to monogamy where each person has a maximum of one spouse at any one time). ... Look up cruelty in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... For other uses of Desertion, see Abandonment. ... 1873 (MDCCCLXXIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ... 1878 (MDCCCLXXVIII) was a common year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar). ... For other uses, see Law (disambiguation). ... A magistrate is a judicial officer. ... Personal property is a type of property. ... Year 1886 (MDCCCLXXXVI) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Wednesday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar). ... A legal guardian is a person who has the legal authority (and the corresponding duty) to care for the personal and property interests of another person, called a ward. ...


Reform of Prostitution Laws

The situation of prostitutes -- and as was later demonstrated women in general -- was actually worsened through the 'First Contagious Diseases Prevention Act' in 1864. In towns with a large military population, women suspected of being prostitutes had to subject themselves to an involuntary periodic genital examination. If they refused they were imprisoned immediately; if they were diagnosed with an illness they were confined to hospitals until they were cured. This law applied to women only since military doctors believed that these shameful examinations would destroy a man's self-respect, another indication of the double standard of Victorian society. Because the decision about who was a prostitute was left to the judgement of police officers, far more women than those who were really prostitutes were examined. After two extensions of the law in 1866 and 1869 the unjust acts were finally repealed in 1886. A crusader in this matter was Josephine Butler who helped to form a society who worked to repeal these acts. 1864 (MDCCCLXIV) was a leap year starting on Friday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a leap year starting on Sunday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar. ... Illness (sometimes referred to as ill-health) can be defined as a state of poor health. ... A double standard, according to the World Book Dictionary, is a standard applied more leniently to one group than to another. ... 1866 (MDCCCLXVI) is a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar or a common year starting on Wednesday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar. ... 1869 (MDCCCLXIX) is a common year starting on Friday (link will take you to calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a common year starting on Sunday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar. ... Year 1886 (MDCCCLXXXVI) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Wednesday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar). ... Josephine Elizabeth Butler (1828 - 1906) was a Victorian era feminist campaigner who was primarily interested in the welfare of prostitutes. ...


Reform of Jobs Available to Women

Three medical professions were opened to women in the 19th century: nursing, midwifery, and doctoring. However, it was only in nursing, the one most subject to the supervision and authority of male doctors, that women were widely accepted. Victorians thought the doctor's profession characteristically belonged to the male sex and a woman should not intrude upon this area but stay with the nucleus of the family. The 1870 US Census was the first to count "Females engaged in each occupation" and reveals that women were 15% of the work force and two-thirds of all Nursing is a profession focused on assisting individuals, families, and communities in attaining, re-attaining, and maintaining optimal health and functioning. ... // Midwifery is the term traditionally used to describe the art of assisting a woman through childbirth. ... 1870 US Census The United States Census of 1870 was the ninth United States Census. ...


Further reading

  • Hellerstein, Erna Olafson, Leslie Parker Hume, and Karen M. Offen. Victorian Women: A Documentary Account of Women's Lives in Nineteenth-Century England, France, and the United States. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1981. ISBN 0804710880.
  • Rappaport, Erika. Shopping for pleasure. Women in the making of London's West End. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2000.

External links

  • The Victorian Women Writers Project

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